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Wolowski, Vincent Roman (2016): High-quality, high-throughput measurement of protein-DNA binding using HiTS-FLIP. Dissertation, LMU München: Faculty of Chemistry and Pharmacy



In order to understand in more depth and on a genome wide scale the behavior of transcription factors (TFs), novel quantitative experiments with high-throughput are needed. Recently, HiTS-FLIP (High-Throughput Sequencing-Fluorescent Ligand Interaction Profiling) was invented by the Burge lab at the MIT (Nutiu et al. (2011)). Based on an Illumina GA-IIx machine for next-generation sequencing, HiTS-FLIP allows to measure the affinity of fluorescent labeled proteins to millions of DNA clusters at equilibrium in an unbiased and untargeted way examining the entire sequence space by Determination of dissociation constants (Kds) for all 12-mer DNA motifs. During my PhD I helped to improve the experimental design of this method to allow measuring the protein-DNA binding events at equilibrium omitting any washing step by utilizing the TIRF (Total Internal Reflection Fluorescence) based optics of the GA-IIx. In addition, I developed the first versions of XML based controlling software that automates the measurement procedure. Meeting the needs for processing the vast amount of data produced by each run, I developed a sophisticated, high performance software pipeline that locates DNA clusters, normalizes and extracts the fluorescent signals. Moreover, cluster contained k-mer motifs are ranked and their DNA binding affinities are quantified with high accuracy. My approach of applying phase-correlation to estimate the relative translative Offset between the observed tile images and the template images omits resequencing and thus allows to reuse the flow cell for several HiTS-FLIP experiments, which greatly reduces cost and time. Instead of using information from the sequencing images like Nutiu et al. (2011) for normalizing the cluster intensities which introduces a nucleotide specific bias, I estimate the cluster related normalization factors directly from the protein Images which captures the non-even illumination bias more accurately and leads to an improved correction for each tile image. My analysis of the ranking algorithm by Nutiu et al. (2011) has revealed that it is unable to rank all measured k-mers. Discarding all the clusters related to previously ranked k-mers has the side effect of eliminating any clusters on which k-mers could be ranked that share submotifs with previously ranked k-mers. This shortcoming affects even strong binding k-mers with only one mutation away from the top ranked k-mer. My findings show that omitting the cluster deletion step in the ranking process overcomes this limitation and allows to rank the full spectrum of all possible k-mers. In addition, the performance of the ranking algorithm is drastically reduced by my insight from a quadratic to a linear run time. The experimental improvements combined with the sophisticated processing of the data has led to a very high accuracy of the HiTS-FLIP dissociation constants (Kds) comparable to the Kds measured by the very sensitive HiP-FA assay (Jung et al. (2015)). However, experimentally HiTS-FLIP is a very challenging assay. In total, eight HiTS-FLIP experiments were performed but only one showed saturation, the others exhibited Protein aggregation occurring at the amplified DNA clusters. This biochemical issue could not be remedied. As example TF for studying the details of HiTS-FLIP, GCN4 was chosen which is a dimeric, basic leucine zipper TF and which acts as the master regulator of the amino acid starvation Response in Saccharomyces cerevisiae (Natarajan et al. (2001)). The fluorescent dye was mOrange. The HiTS-FLIP Kds for the TF GCN4 were validated by the HiP-FA assay and a Pearson correlation coefficient of R=0.99 and a relative error of delta=30.91% was achieved. Thus, a unique and comprehensive data set of utmost quantitative precision was obtained that allowed to study the complex binding behavior of GCN4 in a new way. My Downstream analyses reveal that the known 7-mer consensus motif of GCN4, which is TGACTCA, is modulated by its 2-mer neighboring flanking regions spanning an affinity range over two orders of magnitude from a Kd=1.56 nM to Kd=552.51 nM. These results suggest that the common 9-mer PWM (Position Weight Matrix) for GCN4 is insufficient to describe the binding behavior of GCN4. Rather, an additional left and right flanking nucleotide is required to extend the 9-mer to an 11-mer. My analyses regarding mutations and related delta delta G values suggest long-range interdependencies between nucleotides of the two dimeric half-sites of GCN4. Consequently, models assuming positional independence, such as a PWM, are insufficient to explain these interdependencies. Instead, the full spectrum of affinity values for all k-mers of appropriate size should be measured and applied in further analyses as proposed by Nutiu et al. (2011). Another discovery were new binding motifs of GCN4, which can only be detected with a method like HiTS-FLIP that examines the entire sequence space and allows for unbiased, de-novo motif discovery. All These new motifs contain GTGT as a submotif and the data collected suggests that GCN4 binds as monomer to these new motifs. Therefore, it might be even possible to detect different binding modes with HiTS-FLIP. My results emphasize the binding complexity of GCN4 and demonstrate the advantage of HiTS-FLIP for investigating the complexity of regulative processes.